PRADA: In many ways, Miuccia Prada is in an unenviable position. Her every move is supposed to send shock waves ’round the fashion world, each collection expected to quicken the pulse and alter the perspective of everyone in the audience. It’s a burden born of exceptional talent and influence, one only a very few designers will ever know. And it’s one that will occasionally get the better of any great talent, even Miuccia Prada.
That, it seems, is what happened in the collection she showed on Tuesday night. By any measure, fall’s blockbuster was a hard act to follow. Not only did this collection lack the cohesiveness and casual drama of that effort, it simply was not as beautiful as most of Prada’s recent work. Usually, there is an offhanded quality, a naturalness, to her clothes, even when common sense says there shouldn’t be, as with those now-infamous noxious prints a few seasons back.
This time, however, that naturalness made a hasty exit. Miuccia’s program notes referred to an “avant-garde work ethic,” and that concept may have been the crux of the problem: There was an overzealous attempt at artsiness — in frayed edges, hemp and latex dresses, wheat-field prints — an effort that simply fell short of the desired mood.
That’s not to say that the collection wasn’t timely, which it was, nor that there weren’t some beautiful, sophisticated clothes — clothes any woman would want to own. Prada showed lovely silk denim dresses and separates, particularly those with bead-edge basque bodices, charming bubble skirts and gold metallic knits. She played into the clam-digger trend — one she started last year at Miu Miu — with hopsack versions. And her artsiness had its moments, most notably a computerized block print, horizontally beaded for evening in coats, dresses and skirts. But in the end, this collection just fell short of those great expectations that hover over every Prada runway.
ROMEO GIGLI: At one point in his tumultous career, Romeo Gigli was the most copied designer in the world. The road since then has been a tough one, filled with controversy and conflict. Now, however, calm just may have settled over the house of Gigli. In May, the designer sold his company to Euromed Strategic Fund Ltd., which claims to have big revitalization plans.
Throughout it all, Gigli has remained one of fashion’s true eccentrics, pursuing an esthetic of luxe exoticism that seldom has much to do with the winds of the moment. This season is no exception. “I started thinking about the 18th century,” Gigli said before his show. “Of the colors, the underlying sensuality of the era — and translating that feeling for today.”
He did it by working with the themes he loves: gender play, lavish fabric mixes, an undercurrent of romance. He showed dandified cutaway jackets, provocative lace and velvet dresses and some strong knits, including an oddly sexy dropped-shoulder sweater held on by a halter strap. And he worked with some of the most exquisite fabrics anywhere, including gauzy silks with delicate gold embroidery.
Clearly these clothes are not for everyone; they can seem off-kilter and overbearing. But they also have a quirky charm that is as genuine as it is specific.
TRUSSARDI: Leather is riding high again, and Trussardi is poised to cash in on the trend. Already known for its well-crafted leather accessories, the company is now determined to make inroads with its ready-to-wear. Trussardi has just launched a secondary collection in the U.S. and, in Milan, recently reopened its renovated Via Sant’Andrea boutique. The strength of Trussardi’s luxury signature collection has always been in its handsomely tailored leather jackets and coats, paired with knits and woven separates. But this spring collection ventured into new territory. White, sprinkled with orange and beige, dominated, turning up in materials from crisp hospital cottons to very supple leather. The best were the sporty shapes so popular this season — zip-front jackets, jogging pants and pleated side-tab skirts.
ISTANTE: Istante has always been the tamest of the three Versace collections, and its spring show was presented without all the hype and brouhaha of most Versace extravaganzas. No crowds, no celebrities — just a great parade of smartly tailored clothes — sexy halters, sleek pencil skirts, bias knits and chic denim.

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